Fact Checking the Fact Checkers: AP Fails the Bias Test



Despite the virtuous intentions of some media fact checkers, many “fact checks” are actually disinformation campaigns designed to achieve political goals – which in this case is undermining the president at any cost – including, apparently, the truth.

A recent Associated Press (AP) fact check of President Trump’s characterization of Joe Biden’s immigration record during a recent press conference “determined” that the president’s “account of what his Democratic presidential rival says he’d do with people in the country illegally is false in almost every detail.”

Riddled with partisan tones and a clear, vehement opposition to the president, this analysis could not be more distorted and is a disservice to those genuinely looking to better educate themselves on the nation’s politics.

Fact checking has become increasingly popular but there remains little oversight on fact checkers—which is why I am writing here today. Let’s break down the top three egregious “fact checks” from the AP report and provide you with the truth:

CHILD SMUGGLING:

Trump: “Incentivize illegal-alien child smuggling. Give it an incentive. Because if you look at what they’re saying, that’s exactly what they do: Incentivize illegal-alien child smuggling.”

AP Claim: “The consequences of any new policy can’t be known in advance with precision. But Biden and the advisers argue that rolling back Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy would actually free up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, like smuggling immigrants, children and drugs. Biden has also vaguely promised to ‘improve cross-agency collaboration,’ which he says would help multiple agencies investigate and prosecute smugglers. Whether that’s so can’t be known in advance, either.”

The Facts: Trump is correct that the Biden immigration plan would incentivize illegal alien child smuggling and it already has. Biden’s proposal seeks to eliminate the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which require migrants to wait in Mexico until their court hearing date in the U.S. The program was originally implemented to prevent asylum seekers from arriving to the border with a child in tow hoping to get an immediate release into the country due to existing asylum loopholes.

One of these loopholes is found in a provision of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPRA), an anti-trafficking law that treats all unaccompanied minors as presumptive trafficking victims who are automatically admitted to the country.

Likewise, a judicial ruling limiting detention of adults who arrive illegally in the company of minors, led to a surge of adults showing up to the border with kids. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pilot test conducted between October and May in FY 2019 found that authorities apprehended more than 4,800 members of families in which an adult who claimed to be related to a child in his or her possession was not the parent. The MPP effectively ended the “catch and release” phenomenon where migrants were released into the country due to these loopholes and were likely never seen again.

Biden’s proposal to grant amnesty to virtually all of the nation’s entire illegal alien population would also incentivize illegal alien child smuggling as migrant families send their children to human smugglers to help them enter the country and seek a better life. Contrary to AP’s claim, the consequences of policies such as those being proposed by the Biden campaign are highly predictable.

DETENTION:

Trump: “Abolish immigration detention. No more detention. You come in here illegally, no more detention.”

AP Claim: “Such a plan also does not exist. Instead, Biden has promised to adhere to federal court precedent capping how long immigrants can be held in detention, which the Trump administration has challenged. He also supports “community-based” alternatives to detention and would close private, for-profit detention centers.”

The Facts: Trump is correct againThe Biden immigration plan seeks to abolish immigration detention. As outlined in his “Unity Plan,” Biden has vowed to end “for-profit detention centers,” which make up 70 percent of the detained migrant population. Biden has also said in his official platform that he aims to “end prolonged detention” and that “detention should be a last resort.” There is little ambiguity regarding Biden’s intentions.

DEPORTATION:

Trump: “Stop all deportation. So if we get a MS-13 gang member, which we’ve taken out of our country by the thousands — brought them back to Honduras, Guatemala — can’t do that anymore — El Salvador. Can’t do that anymore. Stop all deportations. So in other words, we’ll take all of these people — many of whom are in prison for rape, murder, lots of other things.”

AP Claim: “Biden hasn’t proposed ceasing deportations. He’s not committed to a policy on it either way. The committee of advisers has proposed a 100-day moratorium on deportations, not a ban.”

The Facts: Trump’s assertion is true – the Biden immigration plan does call for a halt to deportations. While Trump did not mention that it would be for the first 100 days of the presidency, 100 days is still a cessation of deportation and criminals (among others) would not be removed from the country.

Trump is also right to say that many of these individuals are already in prison for crimes. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) analysis found that under Biden’s proposal, more than 85 percent of halted deportations would involve individuals with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. Lastly, Biden has not explicitly stated that deportations would resume on Day 101 or ever.

Though this is not an exhaustive list of the AP’s fact check, it still highlights a representative sampling of the misleading report. To be fair, the president could have used better semantics in some points of his speech, but it should not be used against him. The writers of the piece should have looked at the facts and not how he presented them. Simply put, the AP missed the mark here.

About Author

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Matthew joined FAIR in 2018 as FAIR’s communications specialist. Matthew is a primary media contact for the organization and assists with all of the organization’s communication activities. He brings previous experience in government research, writing, and communications. Before joining FAIR, Matthew worked in the Wisconsin State Senate as well as a Wisconsin political non-profit. Matthew holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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